Ben Kennedy wants to see his hometown club Newcastle do well in this month’s drought-breaking finals campaign, but the Central Coast goalkeeper won’t be giving away any freebies on Saturday night.
Following a pre-season shift the long-time Jets gloveman will be shot stopping for the Mariners in this F3 derby at Gosford and it shapes as a final round full of mixed emotions for the East Maitland-based 31-year-old.
“Obviously having been apart of the Jets for 12 or 13 years I definitely like to see them doing well,” Kennedy told the Newcastle Herald.
“Not just for the club but for the people of Newcastle and the A-League in general. I think it’s positive when clubs like Newcastle and Central Coast are doing well.
“Hopefully they can go a fair way in the finals, but this weekend we’ll be out to get a win for Central Coast and finish our season on a high.”
Three competition points, avoiding the wooden spoon and a maiden victory against his high-flying old team, having lost 2-0 last time around in Newcastle on January 9, would be more than just a short term fix for Kennedy.
The former Thornton junior will again be with the Mariners in 2018-2019, having reached the requirements of an automatic contract renewal this season after originally signing a one-year deal.
And it comes as the Central Coast on Wednesday night unveiled former A-League premiership-winning coach Mike Mulvey as the club’s mentor until the end of 2019-2020. Wayne O’Sullivan has been the interim boss since Paul Okon’s departure last month.
“It’s a positive move for the club,” Kennedy said.
“He [Mulvey] has been around the league, knows how it works and has also been very successful.
“He’s someone who’s well respected and it’s good that they’ve appointed a coach pretty early on.
“He can plan for next year in terms of player recruitment and be there from day one of pre-season.”
Kennedy will be keen to retain the No.1 jersey next season, having made it his own in 2017-2018 with 22 straight appearances for the Mariners from round five.
It means he missed the 5-1 season-opening loss to the Jets, but his return to form after being sidelined with an Achilles tendon injury for all of 2016-2017 has increased his confidence and validated the change of scenery.
“It’s been good playing for most of the year,” he said.
“I haven’t had a full season or close to it in quite a while, especially coming off the injury last year made it even longer.
“I’ve had a lot of rehab so to get myself back fit and playing again is a real positive for me. I’ve just enjoyed being out there and playing again.
“That’s what I wanted and the move has been a positive one. I’ve got to play most of the season and probably played better than I ever have before.”
Kennedy, who has made 136 A-League appearances, debuted for the Jets in 2006-2007, last featured in finals in 2009-2010 and was named the club’s player of the year in 2011-2012.
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Meanwhile, all-age and over-35 fixtures scheduled for the Jets’ home semi-final on Friday, April 27 have been changed across the Newcastle, Macquarie and Hunter Valley zones to avoid the clash and allow more people the chance to attend McDonald Jones Stadium.
“It’s a credit to everyone involved, the way Northern New South Wales and each of the Zones have come together to make this happen has been absolutely tremendous,” Jets chief executive officer Lawrie McKinna said.
“The attitude from across the board was ‘how can we make this game [semi-final] available to everyone?’ and we found a workable solution that meets the needs of our football community.”
And in other Jets news the club’s under-19 side will travel to Honk Kong next month (May 18-20) to play in a sevens tournament against the likes of English sides Newcastle United, Aston Villa, West Ham and Leicester City.
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